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CJE believes that only tangible punishment for those complicit in the pressure on journalists will stop the intimidation campaign

18.01.2024, 18:29

The Commission on Journalistic Ethics is outraged by the pressure faced by Ukrainian investigative journalists and considers it a serious threat to democracy and to Ukraine's future, according to the Commission's statement about the pressure and intimidation campaign targeting the investigative journalists Yuriy Nikolov and Denys Bihus.

The CJE reminds that the observance of the citizens' constitutional rights is guaranteed by the President of Ukraine, therefore the Commission demands that he show he is capable of defending democracy and freedom of speech.

The Commission also calls on the law enforcement, in particular on the Security Service, the Prosecutor General's Office, and the National Police of Ukraine, to comprehensively and impartially investigate the cases in question. "In view of the serious threats to Ukraine's democracy and parliamentarism, we call on the parliament to independently supervise the investigation into the attacks on journalists," the statement says, noting that such crimes should not go unpunished.

The CJE considers wiretapping, covert filming, unwanted visits to journalits' homes, social media harassment, crime allegations as intimidation targeting investigative journalists and their teams.

"The latest attacks on Yuriy Nikolov and Denys Bihus look like a pre-planned campaign to discredit media workers in the society's eyes. The purpose of such attacks is to destroy the reputation of well-known journalists and sow distrust in investigative journalism in Ukraine. The interference in media persons' private life may result in the disclosure of confidential sources. This may pose a threat to those sources and make it difficult for all journalists to obtain information in the future," the CJE notes.

The Commission believes that only making the perpetrators face tangible responsibility will stop the disgraceful campaign aimed at intimidating journalists and devaluing their work.

"Investigative journalism plays a significant role in Ukraine in times of martial law, closed registers and limited opportunities for the public to monitor the actions of the authorities. The Commission on Journalistic Ethics considers it unacceptable that journalists resort to self-censorship and refrain from sensitive topics due to threats and pressure. Only making the perpetrators face tangible responsibility will stop the disgraceful campaign aimed at intimidating journalists and devaluing their work," the statement reads.

As the IMI reported, on January 16, the head of the Bihus.Info project, Denys Bihus, recorded a statement in response to a provocative video shared on YouTube by the website "Narodna Pravda", wherein his employees negotiate the purchase of drugs and use them, and reported unlawful surveillance and wiretapping. He also announced staff changes. The phones of the Bihus.Info team were wiretapped for several months, according to Denys Bihus's second video address.

On January 17, the Media Movement called on President Volodymyr Zelensky to resolutely condemn the pressure campaign on independent journalists and investigators and ensure that the crimes against the media are properly investigated.

On January 17, the Security Service of Ukraine opened a case over unlawful wiretapping and video surveillance of Bihus.Info employees. On the same day, SBU officers searched at the suburban complex where the Bihus.Info team members were illegally recorded on video. The law enforcers confiscated the hard drives with CCTV footage.

On January 15, investigative journalist Yuriy Nikolov reported an attempt at intimidation: unknown men tried to break into his apartment on January 14, scaring his mother and neighbors, and left paper notes saying "draft dodger" and "traitor" on his door. After the incident, the Telegram channel "Kartochny Ofis" posted about it, claiming that it was military servicemen trying to deliver a draft notice to the journalist. A provocative post about Yuri Nikolov was shared by the Telegram channels "Vertykal" and "Joker" at about the same time. On January 15, the Telegram channel 'Joker' posted the video of Nikolov's comment on President Volodymyr Zelensky and implied that the attack on the journalist's apartment was retaliation for his remark about the head of state.

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